Martin Co. West grad wins honor

Sierra Williamson

SHERBURN — Sherburn native Sierra Williamson, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, has been selected as a Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader for 2017-2018.

The internship program is a special honor for Williamson, who has continued a passion for agriculture that began in high school.

Williamson, daughter of Jamie and Deb Williamson, was recently able to discuss the program, and what it means for her future.

“I was raised in Sherburn, and graduated from Martin County West High School,” she said. “I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s degree in agricultural and food business management from the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.”

Williamson noted that growing up in a rural area had distinct advantages for her, including a close sense of community; development of personal relationships; and a focus on family, church, education and community participation.

“I was very involved in the Martin County West FFA, serving as chapter reporter and treasurer, participating in FFA research projects and assisting in charitable events that benefit the community such as ‘From the Ground Up,'” she said. “My family, teachers, FFA advisers, community leaders and supervisors have fueled my passion for agriculture and inspired me to search for sustainable food solutions to combat food insecurity here and around the world.”

When asked about the internship itself, Williamson said the program has to do with food security, which she describes as people everywhere having enough nutritious food to eat every day.

“This internship is offered to 10 college sophomores from across the United States to work together as a team on sustainable food solutions,” she said. “The internship allows students to travel to Africa to meet with small-holder farmers to see first hand the struggles of developing farmers and participate in service projects related to agriculture.”

In addition, she and her fellow students will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit with policymakers and observe agricultural-related legislative sessions.

Williamson said the application process was vigorous, noting that she, along with the nine others, were chosen from 160 applications.

“Land O’Lakes then matches the Emerging Leader with a university ambassador and Land O’Lakes sponsor to explore critical food security issues and agricultural challenges through the school year as students are asked to complete challenge assignments,” she said. “Emerging leaders receive a stipend and a 12-week paid summer internship to work with industry experts at Land O’Lakes, Inc., and then present their final projects and recommendations at the end of their internship in August. As soon as I found out, I called my parents and told them the exciting news. Needless to say they were almost as excited as I was.”

Williamson is looking forward to meeting the other nine emerging leaders in January at Land O’Lakes headquarters in Arden Hills, where they will begin working as a team to develop solutions to help with food security issues here and around the world.

“One area that I am interested in within the Global Food Challenge is working to find techniques to improve international agriculture, to help small farmers in developing countries have their own independent food source,” Williamson said. “I started exploring techniques related to cover cropping and ecological services through my undergraduate research in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, where I work under M. Scott Wells on special projects. I hope to take the techniques I learn and apply them to find solutions that benefit international food production in developing countries where the soil mediums are not as viable for agricultural production.”

Those interested in learning more about the internship program can learn more at or by following on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @LandOLakesGFC